Wednesday, February 24, 2016
Now Thatsa Meatball!
I just shared a lovely day with my sister. She and her new hubby are getting ready to take off on their honeymoon and we decided we needed a sister's day - complete with pedicures - to send them off in style!
The two of them are a great couple, filled with the cute little routines of newlywed-dom. One of their routines includes errand running most Saturday's with my sister's new, 98 year old mother-in-law. They take her to the grocery store, library, lunch and any other errands she needs to run. Somewhere in developing this Saturday routine, they discovered an amazing butcher shop where they have made it a habit to stop by every Saturday to purchase their meats for the week. I have been the beneficiary of many a tasty meal and even the occasional special delivery courtesy of this routine.
So we sent her new hubby off to take care of weekly errands with his mom while we decided that not only were we going to get pedicures, but that we would also do some shopping at the mall, have lunch and stop by Double D Meats so I could finally experience it in person. I must say, it was quite a treat and the prices were surprisingly reasonable. I was in a cook's paradise! They had not only the counter of meats you would expect to see, but they had aisle after aisle of bbq sauces, rubs, hot sauces, marinades and some specialty food items. They also had a cheese case and a huge freezer and cold storage in the back where they had self serve packages of many of the items they sell at the main counter. We started there and worked our way back around to the main attraction where I was instantly drawn to this Spinach and Mushroom Sausage:
I looked over everything in the cases, taking it all in, then let inspiration guide me in my purchases. I had already picked up some pancetta from the self-serve case (I believe Pasta alla Carbonara is in our future too), but this sausage inspired me to finally make the meatballs I have been promising my husband for months. So I ordered a pound of the sausage and a pound of the lean ground beef and off we went.
This morning, I set the sausage, beef and eggs out on the counter to take the chill off. Then I went on a search through my Grandma Carbone's recipes to find a couple meatball recipes I knew were there and that I wanted to use as a blueprint.
The recipes are dated 1967 & 1969 and both indicate they were used for some large functions at her church. One notes that it made approximately 1180 meatballs!
Of course, I didn't need to make anywhere near that many meatballs, so I pared it down quite a bit and trusted my instincts to guide me with regards to how much of everything to use.
To start with, I dried some slices of french bread in the oven, then tore it into pieces, added some buttermilk (any milk is fine - just drizzle it over the bread enough to wet it and stir it around) and freeze dried parsley and let it soak a bit...
...until it looked like this:
Then I added the meats and cracked in an egg...
...grated in a few cloves of garlic...
...and topped it all off with some parmesan cheese.
The fun part is getting in there with your hands and mixing it all together - but be gentle, you don't want to overwork it. Once it's all mixed together it should look like this:
Before you start forming the meatballs themselves, preheat the oven to 400 degrees, , spray a cooling rack with non-stick spray (on both sides) and place it on top of a foil lined baking sheet. This will allow the meatballs to bake up crisp on the outside while any excess fat drips into the pan below.
I like to use my favorite cookie scoop to portion the meatballs, I spray it with non-stick spray first...
Then I form them into balls with my hands and place them on the prepared rack. They aren't going to rise or spread so you can place them very close together on the rack as long as they are not touching...
I baked them for about 25 minutes, until they were nicely browned on the outside and fully cooked on the inside.
These are so delicious (shhhh, don't tell anyone, I've eaten 3 already!), moist on the inside, slightly crisp on the outside and delightfully savory, you can just pick up on a hint of the parmesan cheese and the seasonings in the sausage. You can even see the cheese and spinach running through them.
This made about 35 meatballs - far more than Steven and I can eat for one meal, so I'll be using some of them in Spaghetti tonight and the rest will go into the freezer for future use. I'll drop several of the meatballs in the sauce just before I put the water on for the pasta and they should be hot by the time the pasta is ready. When I use the meatballs from the freezer, I'll either add them to a simmering sauce, heat them in a crockpot right from the freezer or thaw them first and bake them in the oven to reheat them. I love having things like this in the freezer for quick meals after a busy day at work!
Here's the recipe:
1 lb Italian Sausage
1 lb lean ground beef
6 slices, dried french bread torn and soaked in milk (or buttermilk)
3 large cloves garlic, grated or minced
1 Tbls parsley (I used freeze dried)
1/2 Cup parmesan cheese (I used shredded, but grated would be better)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a cooling rack (or broiling pan top) with non-stick spray and place over a foil-lined, rimmed, cookie sheet.
Mix all ingredients together. Form approximately 2 Tablespoons of the mixture into meatballs about 1 - 1 1/2 inches in diameter. (You can make them larger too, they will just require more cooking time.) Place on wire rack so meatballs are not touching. Bake 25-30 minutes, until lightly browned on the outside.
Serve hot in spaghetti sauce, meatballs subs or whatever tickles your fancy - Mangia!